An article in the Maldon Times dated May 1963, tells us that the Vermin and Noxious Weeds Destruction Board instructed Maldon Shire inspectors to immediately carry out control measures against wheel cactus (Opuntia robusta J.C.Wendl. ex Pfeiff.).
Thirty years later in the 1990’s, local farmers were alarmed to find wheel cactus still spreading on their properties. These concerns lead to optimistic collaborations between neighbouring landholders, local Landcare groups and Parks Victoria. In the early 2000’s these community members formed a new group, the Tarrangower Cactus Control Committee, specifically to tackle the increasing problem of wheel cactus around Maldon in central Victoria.
This group gained initial funding from the Victorian State Government which helped to establish years of knowledge building, education and information sharing with local communities. Despite the past 20 years of focused, determined and untiring work by many volunteers, there are now more infestations, larger seed banks and a greater spread of wheel cactus in our district.
Fifty years on, it is heartbreaking to see wheel cactus still growing in our beautiful parklands, and devastating to see land owners overwhelmed with the infestations on their properties. Without more rigorous control measures wheel cactus may soon become a major environmental and economic disaster in our region.
This paper presents an overview of the eradication methods and the work performed by our group of ‘cactus warriors’ over the past 20 years, and outlines the actions that we believe need to be taken in the future ‘war’ against wheel cactus.
Mead, L. (2016). Fifty years of 'wheel prickly cactus' (Opuntia robusta) in the Maldon Shire. Plant Protection Quarterly, 30(1), 2-5.